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Governance in Higher Education by Board Members with Faculty Participation


Scholars have long promoted a framework for higher education institutions wherein governance is shared between board members, trustees and faculty members. To note, shared governance promotes collaboration not only between a school's governing body and academic body, but also encompasses the executive body, university committees and faculty members. Through this approach, it is believed that the higher education institution cultivates a culture wherein commitment to a common purpose is valued. This is contrary to an organization where leaders are constantly in opposition with one another. However, reality is that the adoption of adoption of such framework seems to be easier said than done because this type of leadership requires sharing of power and authority. Notably, shared governance in higher education institutions represent a paradigm shift, from hierarchical and bureaucratic concepts to empowerment, effective leadership, accountability, academic quality and collaboration, among others. Nevertheless, challenges in relation to the implementation of this new governance framework continue to persist, largely because of factors such as the inherent structure of higher education institutions, the needs of their customers, unique environment in which they operate as well as the emerging tension between governing and academic bodies that have differing goals. This paper presents a discussion on contemporary frameworks on higher institution governance, the challenges in implementing these, and an evaluation on the appropriateness of these new frameworks.

Statement of the Problem


There are higher education institutions that are small in size while there are some that are huge thereby leading to complex operations. There are higher education institutions that deliver content in brick and mortar campuses, while there are those that use online platforms. Changes in the delivery of content are becoming apparent such that needs also change. There are also institutions that are driven by goals pertaining to academic quality, while there are just as many that seek to gain profitability above everything else. Therefore, it may be said that higher education institutions have paradoxical qualities, with Lawless describing universities as "funny" (p. 284). Funny in the sense that higher institutions of education to not adhere to the same principles and do not have the same goals; thereby, making them different from one another. This is the reason too why students have to be careful in choosing the type of institution to enroll in so that their personal goals are going to be met in higher education institutions.

Because of these paradoxes, an emerging problem is that it is difficult to develop a governance framework that will be flexible enough to address the distinctive issues that each type of higher education institution currently faces. It would have been ideal to have.

Literature Review

This section presents a review of extant literature pertaining to the unique qualities of the higher education institution, the emerging need for a new governance model, the entrepreneurial university, and shared governance.


As mentioned earlier, higher education institutions, or academic institutions in general for that matter, are defined by a hierarchical and bureaucratic structure. Under this model, authority is "delegated from the top down," with faculty members and employees delegated to the lower levels of the hierarchy. Consequently, there are significant gaps in salary levels and status among employees. The more traditional schools are even class conscious. However, in these contemporary times, higher education schools are academic institutions but they also have entrepreneurial goals such that they aggressively market themselves as they seek to elbow out their competitors in the quest for larger market share and better access to resources.

Many higher academic institutions operate within the public education sector but there are also those that are private. Regardless of their business model, these institutions are highly scrutinized by regulators and other stakeholders and are expected to be accountable for the strategies that they use. Yet, many of these organizations "offer little accountability to the lower echelons of their workforce by the managerialist-inspired elite upper ranks" (Lawless). It is important to note that all higher education institutions have had to deal with considerable socio-cultural, economic and political changes in the global, national and local contexts.

Other contradictory aspects about higher education institutions pertain to academic disciplines. Indeed, there are colleges and universities that are more conservative in comparison with others. For instance, some higher education schools opt to specialize in conservative courses, such as medicine and management while there are also those that offer more progressive studies such as Aboriginal studies or Informatics.

In light of all these, the higher education landscape in many countries are defined by diversity and multiculturalism as well as the compelling need to comprehend just what makes these schools successful. Alternatively, the diverging natures, interests and goals of different higher education institutions make it difficult to develop governance and leadership frameworks that not only will address the challenges brought about by the aforementioned diversity but will also celebrate the strengths and triumphs in the realm of educating learners.

The need to find this governance framework is of utmost importance due to the role that higher education institutions play in society. In this quest to create such framework, a significant issue that has arisen pertains to rising costs of education and the concern that costliness of higher education presents questions about whether it is truly worthwhile in the context of returns in investments and earning potential.

The concern about costs affects important stakeholders, particularly administrators and students. To reinforce the importance of such issue, many university and college presidents point to evidence cited in College Board's report entitled Education Pays, in which it was states that in 2010, "the typical bachelor's degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate earns over the same period" (Buller, p. 31). Other questions that are just as important are unfortunately ignored. For instance, hardly does someone ask whether higher education is merely a route to job training? Are universities simply like vocational or technical schools that are evaluated according to returns on student investment in education?

Buller insightfully explains that whereas gaining employment is a significant objective for graduates, it is even more important to remember that "higher education prepares students to engage more meaningfully in a democratic society" (p. 31). Thus, academic leaders need to take the rein in showing society that a higher education institution is not constrained to serve as an employment agency because doing so is a disservice to such institutions and what they represent, at the very least. Notably, higher education institutions serve as instruments that empower students to later on "engage more meaningfully in a democratic society" (Buller, p. 31). This brings the debate on the role of higher education institutions in society back to the notion of developing a governance framework so that students and schools will achieve their future goals.


Scholars and practitioners in the realm of education have repeatedly noted that, due to socio-cultural, political and economic influences, a number of contemporary higher education institutions have willingly adopted the entrepreneurial model. In Europe, conception of the higher education institution as an entrepreneurial organization has been widely accepted. This model emerged out of the realization among school administrators, policymakers and governments increasing globalization of economy, telecommunications technology, demographic development as well as transformed value patterns necessitate that academic institutions use a more competitive approach to its operations.

Grudzinskii's discourse on this topic is comprehensive. According to the researcher, the new challenges confronting higher education institutions is rooted in contradicting requirements brought about by new social and economic realities. These contradictions involve the three primary functions that higher education institutions seek to achieved, namely, expensive scientific research; the social need for mass education; as well as the onus of dealing with regional problems. These contradictions have led to a "crisis of the university" wherein faculty members have not yet come to grips with social, economic and political changes and are therefore expecting that new problems will be solved through the use of traditional approaches.

According to Grudzinskii changes in the environment does not necessarily mean that the aforementioned three functions of the university will have to change. On the contrary, these three functions are enduring ones that will remain the cornerstones of higher education. The overarching concern here is that with the advent of globalization, the capabilities of the higher education institution to continue accomplishing these functions have been gravely compromised considering that many of such institutions continue to use the traditional organizational form. In light of these, for universities and colleges to appropriately respond to these radical changes, then they will have to seek out innovative approaches to education and scientific activity. This is where the framework of the entrepreneurial organizational comes in.

The term "entrepreneurial organization" pertains more to the type of relationships that exist within an organization and between stakeholders as well as to the management approach used instead of the organizational functions or structure.

In innovative European universities, the entrepreneurial perspective embodies a new paradigm of organization and management that enables effective functioning. It is important to note that entrepreneurship is comprised by three crucial components, namely, "organizational action; initiation of changes; and monetary income as a goal and criterion of success" (Grudzinski). Just as importantly, there is emphasis on innovativeness as the primary criterion in entrepreneurship. This innovativeness is what drives organizational leaders to look for further development, and the effective allocation of resources so that goals and objectives are met. Other basic qualities of entrepreneurial activity encompass risks of the social, financial and psychological nature.

Hence, the application of the entrepreneurial organization framework to higher education institution means that the college or university becomes an organization that continually seeks innovation in order to appropriately respond to specific risks and demands. Moreover, such college or university is an economically stable and seeks profitability according to its own capabilities.

An entrepreneurial organization uses a liberal approach while at the same time, places value on the construction of flexible social networks. It is an organization that equally values human resources and their competencies. It is an organization whose leaders do not seek to control employee activities but instead, seeks to provide any type of support that will enable these employees to achieve play their individual roles in the attainment of organizational goals and objectives.

Consequently, employees are empowered to make their own decisions and to participate in goal-setting and problem-solving provided that they are willing to be held accountable for outcomes. Such higher education institution seeks to satisfy the needs of its customer (students) and in the process, looks for ways to engage with the customer base in order to timely and accurately identify needs and demands.


Under this model, the need for new leadership approaches cannot be emphasized enough. In the higher education landscape, numerous weaknesses in the context of leadership have been identified. For instance, has been observed that higher education institutions have weak recruitment processes in terms of identifying leadership potential. There are only few important selection criteria regarding acceptance into programs, and many colleges and universities have poor pedagogical techniques. Higher education institution leaders also tend to have low performance expectations and provide little "meaningful experiential opportunities" to faculty and employees alike. Aside from these, it has been noted that leadership has been ineffective in cultivating "programmatic linkages with local school districts" (Whitaker).

It must be emphasized that the new entrepreneurial model of higher education institutions have been promoted by a number of scholars as an effective means of satisfying the needs of contemporary students. However, this does not mean that the transition to such new model will be smooth as expectedly certain barriers stand in the way of its adoption. Many of these challenges are related to leadership.

The dilemma of the higher education leader is rooted in the notion that leaders have to "focus on and accept responsibility for results" (DuFour). In the realm of higher education, leaders are expected to cultivate a culture of success by helping teachers establish critical learning outcomes . Among other things, leaders are also expected to provide direction by and helping schools achieve goals that are specific, measurable and results-oriented that only a collaborative culture can enable.

However, reality is that many academic leaders are "charting a course between different, even opposing, paradigms," including the "student as scholar" that focuses on "enquiry, scholarship, and life-long learning," and "student as consumer" in which students "seek a relatively expedient, efficient, vocationally oriented educational experience" (Drew). Therefore, another heavy challenge confronting higher education leadership pertains to oppositional albeit intersecting goals of mass education and of proven pedagogical principles wherein the student plays the role of collaborator and critical thinker at one end and as consumer, at the other.

Drew points out other challenges that lead to tension between the goals and objectives of the entrepreneurial university and pedagogical pursuits. In alignment with Grudzinskii's characterization of the entrepreneurial university, Drew also notes that the conception of the academic as "independent thinker and researcher" eventually competes with the more realistic perspective of the "business enterprise project" (p. 58). In the latter, there has been an increasing need for collaboration with private enterprises in order to address reductions in access to resources and to effectively respond to increasing pressure generated by high expectations from stakeholders. Hence, there are many educational leaders who have begun sharing knowledge, resources, and practices in efforts to find effective and more streamlined mangers of supporting learning. Against this backdrop, the shared governance model in higher education institutions emerged.


One of the best ways to deal with current issues confronting the higher education institution. The underlying rationale of shared governance is that, as the entrepreneurial model shows, management principles in which leaders and managers are accorded authority and power are not compatible with the goals of higher education institutions.

The concept of shared governance promotes the notion that decision making must not be limited only to the school's governing body or its academic body. Rather, governance must be shared between the executive body, university committees, the academic body and the governing body in order to foster a culture wherein a common sense of purpose is shared. Shared governance is promoted by the entrepreneurial university model especially in terms of empowering the aforementioned bodies when it comes to problem-solving, goal-setting and decision-making.

In relatively recent years, there have been increasing calls to encourage faculty members to take more active roles in higher education governance. Scholarly discourse on shared governance points to "best practices" where governing boards closely engage with faculty members. However, it is notable that while a good number of higher education institutions seek to achieve shared governance, it seems that just as many have boards that are generally distrustful of faculty members and vice-versa, thereby creating the need to improve faculty-board relations. Moreover, in spite of recommendations from scholars and educational leadership alike, there remains disagreement regarding whether faculty members must be permitted to be members of boards of trustees.

Gaff, Taylor and Ehrenberg, et al. assert that faculty members, by virtue of their experience and expertise on delivery of instruction, pedagogy and curriculum development, classroom management, among others, should be permitted to share responsibility and authority for higher educational programs, with academic administrators. Indeed, as Jenkins and Jensen explain, genuine shared governance at higher education institutions is grounded upon four key principles. These are "faculty authority, inclusiveness, a commitment to tenure, and a commitment to the process" (Jenkins & Jensen).

The first tenet of shared governance requires "primary authority" to be given to the faculty in functions such as recruitment and curriculum development. This principle is associated with strong corporate perspectives in which profitability is the overarching goal of colleges and universities. For shared governance to be effective, governing bodies and administrative bodies have to share their authority to faculty members, who, in the first place, are experts in the realm of academic concerns.

The second tenet of shared governance holds that stakeholders such as faculty members, administrators, employees and students, must be empowered to participate in decision-making since they are the ones that will be immediately impacted by most decisions . It must be emphasized that higher academic institutions represent a "community of scholars, with consensual decision-making processes involving all constituencies affected by the decisions."

The third tenet of shared governance, commitment to tenure, is highly justifiable in light of the fact that full-time tenured as well as tenure-track faculty members are crucial to university or college governance. While it cannot be denied that temporary or contingent faculty members are also sources of knowledge and expertise, tenured faculty are not as politically vulnerable as the former. Factors associated with contingent faculty, including, inadequate long-term job security, make them susceptible to manipulation of administrators that ensure them their livelihoods.

Lastly, the systems perspective holds that shared governance must embody full commitment to process relevant to all state, system, and campus levels. It cannot be emphasized enough that shared governance can only be possible if there is collaboration between administrators, governing bodies, and faculty members when it comes to making informed decisions. In order to be able to share authority with faculty members, administrators must have absolute committed to these four principles of shared governance. As seen here, faculty members can also act as trustees for the higher education institution. As such, faculty trustees must have the appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to balance their duties to represent the interest of faculty members with the broader interests of the organization because they have fiduciary responsibility for the school as a whole.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Shared governance is a framework that has long been promoted by scholars for higher education institutions. In this model, governance is shared between board members, trustees and faculty members. Indeed, this governance model is reinforced by the entrepreneurial university model which, contrary to how the term might sound, is not really focused only on profitability. Instead, the entrepreneurial university model promotes innovation that will lead to appropriate responses to risks, as well as customer needs and demands. However, the adoption of both the shared governance and the entrepreneurial university models is not easy as barriers stand in the way. Among these barriers are the tensions between administrative and academic goals, weaknesses in organizational factors such as leadership, evolving customer needs and focus on profitability.

In line with these barriers, it is recommended that for shared governance to work, the university leadership should address them first. In order to ease tensions between administrative and academic goals, there is a need to list down everything for open consultation. That is, leaders from administration and from the academic roster should come to the table and discuss their goals. Everyone should come with a win-win attitude so that solutions are achieved. The goals can then be prioritized based on urgency and availability of resources. There must be balanced too when it comes to which goals are to be prioritized.

In terms of weak leadership, this can be addressed by equipping leaders with all the tools they need to make better decisions. Leaders can also be given trainings so that they will know the newer leadership concepts that work well in their setting. Of course, it is hard to make educational leaders adapt to more progressive ways of doing things; thus, it is important to inject new blood in leadership positions. Meaning, younger but equally intelligent and talented individuals should be appointed by the school board so that they can provide balance, as well as, initiate necessary changes. In this regard, it would not be amiss for the board to include faculty members to the leadership positions so that an academic perspective is included whenever there are actions or decisions to be made.

Finally, the organization should constantly evaluate the needs of its customers to be able to stay competitive in terms of services provided to them. This can also be the means upon which profitability is enhanced.


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